Can Embracing Japanese Culture Make You Forget Your Own? (Part 2)

August 31st, 2012By Category: Coming to Japan, Culture

If you’re just joining us, you can catch up on Part 1 here.

Music

This has been a big one for me. A prime example of how living abroad has affected , is in the genres of music that I listen to. For example, one genre of music that I really enjoy is the hip-hop/rap genre. I live in Tsukuba, and I remember during my first year, wondering if there were any people around that listened to hip hop music. When I would go to karaoke with my co-workers and friends, it’s the type of music that would rarely get any attention. Honestly, I don’t do much rap/hip-hop at karaoke, because I sound pretty bad even if I know the lyrics! But I really enjoy listening to it. When I would ask adult students what types of music they liked and didn’t like, so many grouped rap and hip-hop into the music they didn’t like. Now I’m sure in Tokyo, it’s a different story, but here, it seems like rock, soft-rock, pop, and r & b, are most popular.

Because I wanted to find things in common with other people and wanted to be open to making all kinds of new friends. I started listening to more and more of the music that I didn’t give as much attention back home. I started to listen to more and more of the Beatles, David Bowie, Oasis, even some of J-Pop (“Japanese Pop”) music that’s so popular here. I thought doing so would make me more open-minded and help me to learn more about the people around me. Truthfully, I think it has.

But I remember my co-workers buying me tickets (a birthday present) to go to the Summer Sonic concert. After seeing Stevie Wonder and Tribe Called Quest live, I realized just how much I missed being around the music I used to listen to and the accompanying culture. It’s one thing to go through my ipod and listen to music that I used to like, but it’s another thing entirely to be around people who feel the music the same way you do.

But I remember my co-workers buying me tickets (a birthday present) to go to the Summer Sonic concert. After seeing Stevie Wonder and Tribe Called Quest live, I realized just how much I missed being around the music I used to listen to and the accompanying culture. It’s one thing to go through my iPod and listen to music that I used to like, but it’s another thing entirely to be around people who feel the music the same way you do.

Forgetting Your Native Language

This one DEFINITELY happens. If you’ve been in Japan for a while, I know you’ve probably experienced it. Sometimes having those English brain farts, where you forget an English word or expression that you’re trying to say. I would imagine that if you work at a school where you’re the only foreigner, your Japanese will significantly improve. But if you have no English-speaking friends whatsoever, you will assuredly experience some English loss. Luckily there are some ways to overcome, or at least reduce, English attrition.

Have I Forgotten My Culture?

Absolutely not. There are times when I get stuck in my own little world, and get a little foggy on things from home…because I do live so far away. But every time I go home, although it’s not often, I have a chance to reconnect with my family and my friends. Every year I have a chance to be reminded of how proud I am to come from where I come from and to have the people in my life that I do.

It’s extremely important to be open-minded and accepting of other people’s lifestyles: drinking culture, music, food, and the like. However, if you really like the foreign country you’re living in, there is the danger that you could lose yourself in the culture. But if you’re honest with yourself about who you are, and as long as you have family and friends (in your hometown and in Japan) that help you stay grounded, I truly don’t think you’ll forget. This will help you to strike the delicate balance between embracing Japanese culture and becoming consumed by it. I think everybody has to find the balance that works best for them. I know I’m still adjusting my scales.

QUESTION TO THE READERS: Do you think living abroad can make you lose sight of your home country’s culture? Have you experienced that before? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to use the comments section below


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Author of this article

Donald Ash

Donald Ash is the creator of TheJapanGuy.com website.  He is from Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. and is currently living and working in Ibaraki, Japan as an English teacher.  The majority of his professional work has been in the educational field, having taught both karate and middle school in the United States.

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  • leslie nguyen

    I can relate to you (haha) in that I suck at karaoke with hip hop/rap music. I like J-Pop, but I can’t understand the lyrics. Keep it old school, but embrace the new school…(how I look at it)

    I am so hoping to improve my Japanese significantly, but at the same time, I don’t want to lose my English skills :]

    “Find a balance that works?”…I like that!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/renniefoster Rennie Foster

    the hip hop subculture is deep all over japan, even in rural areas. you need to not hang around mainstream people so much and get out and find the scene in your area. in fact i happen to know of DJs and club nights in Mito and Ibaraki doing serious hip-hop. good music is always underground …so many people are into bland top 40 and mainstream j-pop because that is what is fed to them on TV and commercial radio.. but not everyone.. subculture exists universally.

  • No countries, no religion

    “how proud I am to come from where I come from…” the whole point of travel is to dissolve national pride, to let go of culture-based assumptions and just be. Japan is a great place to do that, if you can allow your software to be re-written into a global country-free consciousness.

  • http://twitter.com/4nnya Anya

    I just came back after 1 year of living in Japan and today I realized for the first time that even though I came back to my home country, this might be a case of culture shock. everything seems familiar, since I’ve spent so much time here, but it’s also kind of foreign and weird…

  • 김 쫑민

    Seeing as you are from ATL area, you must be missing Outkast, T.I., Jermaine Dupri, So So Def as a whole, Trick Daddy, Trina, list goes on.. I loved the 90s dirrty south hip hop!
    I still jam out my 90s hip hop. From east to da west – Wu Tang, Biggie to Snoop and Pac.
    But I don’t sing them at kareoke.. I leave to the good MCs to do the job hehe

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